HaitiHaiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch is a blog that tracks multinational aid efforts in Haiti with an eye towards ensuring they are oriented towards the needs of the Haitian people, and that aid is not used to undermine Haitians' right to self-determination.

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Recently released e-mails from Hillary Clinton’s private server reveal new details of how U.S. officials worked closely with the Haitian private sector as they forced Haitian authorities to change the results of the first round presidential elections in late 2010. The e-mails documenting these “behind the doors actions” were made public as part of an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

Preliminary results from the deeply flawed 2010 presidential and legislative elections were announced on December 7, 2010, showing René Préval’s hand-picked successor Jude Célestin and university professor Mirlande Manigat advancing to a second-round runoff. The same day, the U.S. Embassy in Haiti released a statement questioning the legitimacy of the announced results.

Behind the scenes, key actors were already pushing for Célestin to withdraw from the race, according to the e-mails.  Just a day after preliminary results were announced, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten wrote to Cheryl Mills, Tom Adams and Daniel Restrepo, all key State Department Haiti staff. “Boulos + private sector have told RP [René Préval] that Célestin should withdraw + they would support RP staying til 7 Feb.” “This is big,” the ambassador added.

HRC email merten

“Boulos” here refers to Reginald Boulos, one of the largest industrialists in Haiti and a member of the Private Sector Economic Forum. Importantly, Boulos also suggested they would support Préval staying in office through February 7, but with the election delayed due to the earthquake, a new president would not be able to take office by then. Many had advocated for Préval’s early departure, and during a meeting of international officials on election day, Préval was even threatened with being forced out of the country.

The e-mail also shows that Merten was in close contact with Michel Martelly’s campaign. Protests had already broken out across Port-au-Prince and in other cities throughout Haiti, with protesters alleging that their preferred candidate, Michel Martelly, should be in the runoff. Merten writes that he had personally contacted Martelly’s “camp” and told them that he needs to “get on radio telling people to not pillage. Peaceful demo OK: pillage is not.” Documents obtained through a separate FOIA request have shown that a key group behind the protests later received support from USAID and went on to play a role in the formation of Martelly’s political party, Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale.

The following day, as per Merten’s suggestion in the e-mail, the U.S. Embassy released another statement calling for calm and urging political actors to “work through Haiti's electoral contestation process to address any electoral concerns.” As the e-mail reveals, however, efforts were underway to remove Célestin from the race before any contestation process could even begin.

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti.

On Friday October 2, Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) member Nehemy Joseph submitted resignation letters (images below) to both President Martelly and his colleagues at the CEP, in a fresh blow to Haiti’s electoral process. Dogged by criticisms over the fraud and violence-plagued legislative elections on August 9, the CEP has suffered from a crisis of confidence as many political parties and civil society groups continue to demand the resignation of its president, Pierre Louis Opont and other changes before presidential elections October 25.

Joseph told president Martelly that he was “not comfortable” staying at the CEP any longer. In his letter to the CEP, Joseph cited his unsuccessful attempts to persuade his colleagues to correct what he perceived as errors and the public criticism of the institution as reasons for his departure. Joseph also singled out the United Nations Development Program’s control over the electoral budget as a factor impeding the work of the CEP.

"Today, I am increasingly convinced that completing my mandate would involve me in illegality. (I feel that my credibility will end up melting away like an ice block if I do not leave.) Indeed, the various unsuccessful efforts I made to persuade some of my colleagues to reconsider certain decisions made in error are, among others, factors that have deepened my concerns ... It is natural to make mistakes, but to persevere in error even while recognizing it as such can prove to be pathological," Joseph wrote. Nevertheless, Joseph concluded by stating that he hopes the electoral process will continue smoothly.

Political insiders had expected the announcement for at least a few days. Joseph is “someone not willing to go down in a sinking boat at whatever the cost,” one political adviser close to president Martelly said, requesting anonymity. The adviser expected the election to proceed as scheduled, though acknowledged he was less sure than prior to the resignation. The decision raises the prospect of other councilors following Joseph out the door, which could put the continuation of the electoral process in jeopardy.

The CEP and the Martelly government insist that elections will go ahead as planned. "This will not affect the work of the CEP," fellow council member Ricardo Augustin told the Haitian press in response to Joseph’s resignation. Jean Renel Sanon, a representative of the National Palace said that the government would be in communication with the Peasant/Vodou sector, which had nominated Joseph to the post, to find a replacement as soon as possible. The electoral decree passed in March stipulates that the CEP can continue to function so long as a quorum of 5 members is achieved.

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti. 

Haitian Prime Minister Evans Paul is in Washington D.C. to participate in a panel at the Congressional Black Caucus’ (CBC) Annual Legislative Conference. According to a press release from the Prime Minister’s office, Paul will also meet with Luis Almagro of the Organization of American States and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.  The CBC panel will take place today (9/17) at 4:30 PM. Also speaking at the panel will be Pierre Louis Opont of the CEP, Brian Concannon from the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, Melinda Miles of Haiti SOIL as well as many others. More details can be found here.

The OAS as well as the Core Group issued statements this week expressing support for the electoral process and the holding of presidential elections on October 25. Gerardo de Icaza, the Director of the Department for Electoral Cooperation and Observation at the OAS traveled to Haiti on September 14 and, according to the release, “will hold high-level meetings with the electoral authority and political actors in Port-au-Prince in support of the holding of the upcoming elections.” The head of the OAS electoral observation mission, Celso Amorim, will make a preliminary visit to Haiti on September 21. The Core Group urged all actors to ensure a successful electoral cycle and “took note” of the CEP’s commitments to address problems from the first round.

The National Front, a grouping of various political parties, has continued its mobilization against the August 9 election. The group is calling for the resignation of the head of the CEP, Pierre Louis Opont and says the elections are not possible without a credible CEP. The group sent a letter to various civil society groupings which had designated members of the CEP urging them to have their representatives resign.

The CEP has called another meeting for Friday, September 18 with political party representatives to discuss the preparations for the scheduled October 25 election. A press release from the electoral council states that change to the electoral schedule will be up for discussion. After the previous meeting between parties and the CEP last Friday, various possibilities emerged, including postponing the second round legislative elections until December 27.

The U.N. Independent Expert on Human Rights in Haiti, Gustavo Gallón, called for the CEP to clearly explain their rationale for removing Vérité’s presidential candidate, Jacky Lumarque from the race. “For the case of Jacky Lumarque, the CEP could either make public the arguments on which it relies to exclude him from the process, or re-enter his name on the list of presidential candidates for the next elections,” Gallón said. Last week Vérité announced its withdrawal from the electoral process unless significant changes to the CEP were made.

SOFA (Solidarite Fanm  Ayisyèn, Solidarity of Haitian Women) issued an official statement strongly condemning election-related violence and the low-level of female political representation.  In violation of the mandatory 30% female representation quota set by the Constitution and the Electoral Decree, only 23 women out of 232 senate candidates (9.9%) and 129 women out of 1621 depute candidates (8%) were able to register for August 9 elections.  SOFA’s report calls on the CEP to take all measures necessary to reach the quota, including addressing the economic discrepancies facing female candidates, adopting an education campaign to encourage women to become candidates, and addressing sexism in the mostly male parliament.  

Haiti’s internationally backed electoral process was thrown further into disarray yesterday as a leading political party announced its withdrawal from the electoral process. In a press statement, the Vérité platform, closely associated with former president René Préval, said it was pulling out of the elections because it was the primary victim of the August 9 “electoral mess,” and called for a “good” electoral council in order to “run a good election.”

Haiti’s August 9 election was characterized by extremely low voter turnout, with just 18 percent of registered voters going to the polls. Additionally, nearly one-quarter of all votes were never counted due to violence on election day, problems transporting ballots and other issues. In 25 of the 119 races for deputy, elections will need to be re-run due to the scale of irregularities. Over the last month, an increasingly large cadre of candidates has taken to the streets, leading protests against the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) and a government who they claim has rigged the process.

Also yesterday, INITE, Préval’s former political movement, called on its representative, Ariel Henry to leave the “consensus” government that has run the country since the terms of parliament expired in January. To “remain part of a government that has undertaken and continues this electoral coup of August 9, would be contrary to our principles, our democratic ideals,” the party stated in its letter to President Martelly.

Preliminary results released last month showed Vérité candidates advancing to the second round in 30 of the 85 races that were counted and where no candidate won in the first round, second only to President Martelly’s PHTK. Vérité has mulled the decision to withdraw for some time, as the party’s presidential candidate, Jacky Lumarque, was excluded from participating after originally being accepted. The CEP, after announcing the final list of candidates, kicked Lumarque out of the race because he had been named to a presidential commission under former president Préval and therefore needed a discharge document. Despite a ruling from Haiti’s highest court in favor of Lumarque, the CEP has maintained the exclusion and Vérité has led regular protests for his reentry into the race.

While Vérité has consistently denounced flaws in the electoral process, it has been accused by opposition groups of being close to the governing party and being one of the main benefactors of the recent election. And it’s true; there may never have been an election without the support of Préval.

At least as early as November 2014, senior United States diplomats began to meet with the former president and others deemed to be in the more “moderate” opposition. At the time, with delayed elections still not scheduled and terms of sitting parliamentarians expiring in January, Haiti was engulfed by a growing protest movement calling for the departure of President Martelly and the holding of elections. There needed to be a compromise that would move Haiti toward elections and remove the instability from the streets; Préval, whom the U.S. described as “Haiti’s indispensable man” in a 2009 diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks, was the one to do it.

A local Haitian observation group has released a detailed report from election day, calling into question the legitimacy of the vote in many areas throughout Haiti. The group, made up of RNDDH, CNO and CONHANE, had observers present in 48 percent of voting centers throughout the country. The observers state that in more than 60 percent of polling centers where they were present there was massive fraud or attempted fraud, serious irregularities, intimidation and violent or aggressive acts.

The report continues:

The executive authorities, officials of the electoral body as well as many political parties and candidates each share a part of the blame for what can be considered an electoral fiasco. 

In effect, after having spent four (4) years in power without holding elections that the people were calling for, after having spent four (4) years procrastinating and trying to place the blame on other actors involved in the elections, the executive authorities produced these electoral contests where the political parties of the ruling power, namely PHTK and Réseau National Bouclier Haîtien, have been identified as being, on the day of the election, the most aggressive in the perpetration of fraud and the use of electoral violence as a means to success.

The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) has announced that elections will be re-run in 25 areas where the number of tally sheets counted was below 70 percent. The Senate election in the Artibonite will also be re-run in October. The local observers, however have questioned the transparency of this decision:

The CEP has not provided any information about the handling, at the level of the Tabulation Center, of the numerous irregularities related to ballot-box stuffing and vote fraud reported during the election of August 9 2015. 

Moreover, the decision of the CEP to validate results from a Voting Center based on the relatively low threshold of 70% of tally sheets risks causing serious prejudice to candidates who were the target of violence by their opponents.

Although the CEP never produced a full list of voting centers that were closed or where significant problems ensued, the local observer report lists 104 voting centers where “massive fraud” and violence took place and where the voting was stopped, at least temporarily. Although Haiti’s electoral law specifically states that the suspension of the vote is not, in and of itself, grounds to annul an election, the closures, coupled with reports of fraud and violence certainly raises the question of whether results from these voting centers should be counted at all.

An analysis of the 104 voting centers where massive fraud and violence took place showed that in many cases the CEP never received any tally sheets from the centers. However, many voting centers that are listed by RNDDH produced tally sheets which were eventually accepted and counted by the CEP.  If those additional tally sheets were excluded from the final results, many different races, at both the deputy and senate level would fall below the CEP’s 70 percent threshold.

To demonstrate how sensitive the CEP’s threshold is to small changes in the number of tally sheets accepted and counted, the breakdown below shows the impact of excluding tally sheets from voting centers listed in the local observer report.

Note: PVs are tally sheets produced from each Bureau du Vote (BV). Totals PVs is the total number of PVs if each BV in a given area had produced a tally sheet.

As can be seen, by removing tally sheets from voting centers listed by the RNDDH-led local observer group, four additional departments would need to re-run Senate elections: the Nord, Centre, Grand Anse and Ouest.

Half of PHTK’s eight Senate candidates advancing to the second round come from these departments and all four of Bouclier’s do as well. Verite would lose three of its seven Senate candidates. Both Bouclier and PHTK were warned by the CEP for their involvement in electoral violence in three of the four departments where Senate elections would no longer stand. Verite was singled out for its role in electoral violence in the Nord and Ouest departments, both areas where the party advanced Senate candidates.

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti. 

On August 24, the CEP issued a warning to political parties that further acts of disorder would not be tolerated by the electoral council. In a communiqué, the CEP "deplored" the fact that candidates and their sympathizers had "disrupted" the voting on August 9, "ransacking Voting Centers and stealing voting materials." If a party's candidates, members or supporters commit similar acts again, that party's candidates will be excluded from the race in the affected constituency ("circonscription"), the CEP warned.

The CEP identified 8 of 10 departments where such incidents occurred and identified the parties guilty of election-day disruptions in each department. Only in Nippes and the Nord-Est were no parties warned for involvement.








Of the 16 parties named by the CEP, PHTK and Bouclier were the ones most often singled out for blame. President Martelly's PHTK was reprimanded for perturbing the vote in 6 different departments on August 9, while Bouclier - a party widely perceived to be an ally of PHTK - was cited in 4.

Disturbingly, what the CEP's communiqué seems to show is that causing trouble goes hand-in-hand with electoral success. 

President Martelly's PHTK leads all parties with 25 first-place Deputy candidates going into the second round. Of those 25 leading candidates, 17 come from departments where PHTK engaged in electoral abuses, according to the CEP's communiqué. Similarly, 9 of Verité's 14 Deputy candidates leading after the first round are from departments where the party caused disorder.

For PHTK's Senate candidates, 4 out of 8 going to the second round come from departments where the party's behaviour was criticized by the CEP. The same goes for a majority (7 of 11) of the second-round Senate candidates for the next two leading parties, Verité (4 of 7) and Bouclier (3 of 4).

In the absence of action taken to exclude the offenders, candidates from political parties issued warnings by the CEP will dominate the second round of the legislative elections in many departments. This is the case even when the 25 constituencies that the CEP has said will have their elections rerun are excluded from the analysis.

For the Artibonite, Nord, Centre, Ouest and Sud departments, 3 of 4 first-round Deputy winners and 34 of 47 first-place candidates heading to the second round come from parties cited by the CEP for causing disorder on election day. The outlook for the Senate races, where each department is electing two representatives, is much the same for these departments. In the Artibonite, Nord, Centre, Ouest and Sud, candidates from reprimanded parties hold the top two places (and are thus favourites going into the second round) for 8 of 10 Senate seats up for grabs, and make up 14 of 20 Senate candidates overall going to the second round. Only in the Artibonite, however, will the Senate race be redone.

The CEP, by issuing its warning, may have inadvertently demonstrated that the flaws of the August 9 elections go far beyond the 25 constituencies slated to be rerun. Whether the offending parties get more than just a slap on the wrist remains to be seen.

Major parties cited by CEP communiqué (department)

PHTK (Artibonite, Centre, Nord, Ouest, Nord-Ouest, Sud)

Bouclier (Artibonite, Grand'Anse, Nord, Ouest)

Verité (Nord, Ouest, Sud)

KID (Artibonite, Centre, Sud)

Candidates from parties responsible for election-day violence and disorder, selected departments

1st place Deputy

Artibonite: 3 of 6

Centre: 5 of 7

Nord: 7 of 8

Ouest: 9 of 14

Sud: 10 of 12

1st or 2nd place Senate (going to second round)

Artibonite: 2 of 2 (3 of 4)

Centre: 2 of 2 (3 of 4)

Nord: 2 of 2 (4 of 4)

Ouest: 1 of 2 (2 of 4)

Sud: 1 of 2 (2 of 4)

*This post has been edited for accuracy. 

After not showing up to its own scheduled press conference on Wednesday, Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced on Thursday that they would be re-running the first round legislative elections in 25 towns throughout the country. The CEP also announced participation rates at the national level and for each of the 10 departments during the press conference. However, no results were announced, instead, the CEP directed people to its website where results were supposed to be posted. The website was down until around 4 AM Friday morning when official results were finally made available.

Leaked results had been reported by Haitian radio and on social media throughout the day Thursday and ended up matching exactly those later released by the CEP. In a country where most get their news from the radio, the CEP’s posting of results online likely excluded many from obtaining them.

What follows is a breakdown of the results; which parties and candidates will be moving on to a second round, key figures of voter participation and irregularities and what information is still missing.


Reports from election day indicated extremely low voter participation throughout the country and that was backed up by the posted results. Still, many have raised questions about the numbers released, and there are significant questions that remain unanswered. According to the CEP, the national participation rate was 18 percent, with the lowest participation observed in the West department, at just under 10 percent. 

Participation Rates Haiti 2015

While the announced participation matches the results from the Deputy race, the number of votes counted is 50 percent higher for the Senate. This is to be expected, given that Haitians were choosing two senators from each department and could vote twice. None the less, it appears as though only about half actually chose to do so. 

On Sunday, August 9, Haitians went to the polls in long-overdue elections to elect the entire 119-member Chamber of Deputies and 20 out of 30 seats in the Senate. 1,621 candidates competed for the lower house, while 232 fought for the Senate. In Haiti’s capital, where I witnessed events on election day, the process was marred by a late start, problems with voter lists, and violence and intimidation, which closed a number of polling centers throughout the day. But just hours after the voting closed on Sunday, Haiti’s provisional electoral council (CEP) held a press conference, stating that things had gone well and that only 4 percent of voting centers had been closed — not enough to impact results.

International observer groups, foreign embassies and the U.N. quickly followed suit, putting their stamp of approval on the process. The Organization of American States (OAS), while acknowledging incidents of violence, proclaimed that these “did not affect the overall voting process.” The U.N. and the Core Group (which consists of the governments of the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Spain, France and the European Union) welcomed the holding of elections, and cited the efforts of the Haitian government in “assuring a conducive framework for these elections.” A day later, the EU observation mission, while more critical overall, hailed the elections as “an essential step towards a more robust democracy.”

But these statements of support contrasted greatly with reports in the local press as well as from a local observation team led by a grouping of human rights organizations (RNDDH). The RNDDH-led team, which had over 15 times as many observers as the OAS and EU missions, denounced the process as an assault on democracy and cited fraud, irregularities and violence in 50 percent of voting centers across the country. The group warned the turnout could be “the lowest ever recorded since the 1987 elections,” and cited massive amounts of fraud with political party observers.

Most political parties have denounced an election they see as unfair and controlled by the ruling party (PHTK) and those close to government. A broad spectrum of parties has called for a commission to analyze the results and propose a solution to move forward. Vérité, a new party associated with former president René Préval, issued a statement yesterday highlighting numerous problems with the election, but expressing a desire to see the process continue to avoid an unelected transitional government. PHTK, in a press conference the day after the election, denounced a “smear campaign” against them while stating that the elections were acceptable to move forward.

While not advocating for an annulment of the elections, the RNDDH-led observer group cautioned that the problems on election day were serious enough to question the incoming legislature’s legitimacy. The group urged “all actors involved at every level in the electoral process to avoid trivializing the facts recorded during this election.” They warned, “Be wary of anyone saying that everything went well.”

In the meantime, a cautious calm has come over Port-au-Prince as parties, candidates and observers eagerly await the announcement of preliminary results from the CEP, expected later today. Will elections have to be re-held in certain areas? Will turnout be as low as expected? Will the CEP admit to the full extent of the problem?

“Nobody knows what will happen next, the results will be the indicator,” one of the 10 remaining senators, Jocelerme Privert, said in an interview last week in Haiti. “The credibility of the process and the honesty of the CEP will be tested,” Privert added.

Long-overdue legislative elections will be held in Haiti this Sunday, August 9, the first of three elections scheduled for 2015 (the others scheduled for October 25 and December 27).  This year, Haitians will vote for 20 members of the Senate, for 118 members of the Chamber of Deputies, and for a new president.

The elections are scheduled to take place amidst a climate of low voter interest, extremely low female participation among the candidates, and a record-high number of 128 political parties and groupings registered to participate. The elections will also take place in a context of worrying election-related violence.

HRRW lead blogger and CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston is in Haiti to track what happens, and will be providing updates, along with colleagues from the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Let Haiti Live, and others at the "Haiti Elections" blog here throughout the weekend.

In July, I reported for Al Jazeera America on USAID’s support for a group in Haiti, Mouvement Tet Kale (MTK), which had strong ties to President Martelly and his political party, Parti Haitiene Tét Kale. USAID supplied hand tools to the group (to clean the streets as part of a “civic engagement” program) in the lead up to Martelly’s presidential inauguration in May 2011. In an e-mailed statement, USAID stated that “Mouvement Tet Kale is not the same thing as the Tet Kale party, which came into being in 2012--a year after the inauguration and the grant.” Rather, USAID described MTK as a “social network of community-based organizations.”

But a contract document, released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, clearly shows that from the beginning USAID was aware of the group’s political ties. The project document released by USAID contains an activity summary that also describes MTK as a “social network of community-based organizations”; however, the sentence continues: “founded by Michel Martelly campaign members.” That is a pretty significant omission.

USAID Contract CHE316

To read the original Al Jazeera America piece, click here.

On July 14, 2015, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) released a statement regarding the situation on the Haiti-Dominican Republic border. The IOM interviewed some 1,133 individuals who had crossed the border between June 16 and July 3, finding that “408 persons (or 36.0 per cent) said that they had been deported by different entities, including the military, police, immigration officials and civilians.”  These findings directly contradicted statements from the Dominican Republic and U.S. officials that no deportations had occurred.

However, within two days the press release was pulled from the IOM website and on July 21, IOM issued a new press release making no mention of deportations.

U.S. Special Coordinator for Haiti Thomas Adams, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 15, 2015, stated, “They -- they [the Dominican Republic] have assured us that there will be no mass deportations and none have begun yet.” He added: “There were reports of others that when they investigated, they found out that they weren't -- they weren't really deportees.” A day later the IOM press release had been pulled from the website.

When contacted by HRRW last week, Ilaria Lanzoni, a press officer with the IOM, e-mailed that “They [IOM Headquarters] are currently revising the note.” When the release was re-posted, however, all mentions of deportations were removed. The original release contained a quote from Gregoire Goodstein, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Haiti, stating: “A proper monitoring system is essential to overcome the current uncertainty about the conditions and number of deportations …” However in the updated release, Goodstein’s quote has been changed to “… the current uncertainty about returns.” The rest of the changes can be seen in the screen grabs, below.

IOM PR Deportations Change
Edited Paragraphs of IOM press release with changes highlighted (original on right). Click to enlarge.

After launching the electoral campaign of his political party, Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK), in Cap-Haitien last week, Martelly has renewed his 2011 campaign pledge to restore the Armed Forces of Haiti (FAd’H), reports Le Nouvelliste. In a rally held in the Palmes region in the Southeast department over the weekend, Martelly stated that his previous pledge was not false. He added that since his mandate began, “I have been around the world to meet with representatives of major countries on the issue.”

In February 2014, Martelly formally requested technical advice on the creation of a military from the Washington D.C.-based Inter-American Defense Board (IADB), a body of the Organization of American States.  Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide disbanded the military in 1995 as the force was involved in numerous human rights violations and coup d’etats. Nevertheless, on June 25, 2015, the IADB met with Haitian authorities in Port-au-Prince to officially present a “white paper” outlining the formation of a new defense force. The process has been led by Haitian Minister of Defense Renauld Lener, himself a former major in the FAd’H.

The Director General of the IADB, Vice Admiral Bento Costa Lima Leite de Albuquerque Junior, in announcing the finalization of the “white paper” told the audience:

The principle innovation of the Haitian White Paper, with respect to others, is that it covers the global interests of security, without limiting exclusively to questions of defense. It defines the strategic guidelines of security and national defense that give answers to “all the risks and threats that could make the life of the nation vulnerable” and the interweaving with the economic development and social sustainability of the country. The field of national security includes defense policies, but doesn’t limit itself to it. Other policies, like the exterior policies and the economic policies, also contribute directly to national security.

Therefore, we understand that the Haitian White Paper of also [sic] defines a concrete space of international cooperation in the future, to the extent that the document ordered, systematized and establishes axes and sets areas of priorities for the country.

When Martelly first came to office pledging to restore the Haitian military, the plan was met with fierce resistance, both within and outside of Haiti, with key donor governments including the U.S. opposed to the idea. Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch told the Associated Press in 2011: “The Haitian army has basically been an army that's been used against the Haitian people … It was there as an instrument of repression, so it's hard to see what Haiti gains by bringing back the army.”

CEPR Research Associate, Jake Johnston, reports in Al Jazeera America on US government funding to Mouvement Tét Kale, a political organization with close ties to President Michel Martelly, during the 2010-11 elections: 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The U.S. Agency for International Development gave nearly $100,000 to a Haitian political movement with close ties to President Michel Martelly in the country’s 2010 elections, documents obtained by Al Jazeera show. The money was allocated shortly after Washington helped overturn the election results to thrust Martelly into power.

On the afternoon of Haiti’s Nov. 28, 2010, elections, 12 of 18 presidential candidates took the stage at the glamorous Karibe Hotel, high up in the mountains that surround the capital. The elections were a fraudulent mess, they told the gathered press, and the only way out was to cancel the poll and start over. Chaos soon engulfed Port-au-Prince and other cities, as thousands of young Haitians, many clad in the pink synonymous with Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, took to the streets to simultaneously denounce electoral fraud and herald the victory of their candidate, many days before any official results would be announced.

In the midst of the mayhem, key international actors mobilized. At an emergency meeting at the home of the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission, Edmond Mulet, leading diplomats pushed then-President René Préval to accept their offer of a plane to take him out of the country and avoid further confrontation. Mulet also approached the front-runners, including Martelly, telling them they had secured a spot in the second round and to cease calls for the election’s cancellation. Days later, when the electoral council announced preliminary results that did not have Martelly advancing to the runoff, the streets were once again taken over by largely pro-Martelly protesters. The U.S. Embassy released a statement questioning the announced results, fueling the demonstrations in Port-au-Prince.

The pressure of these pro-Martelly demonstrators — on the day of the elections and during the following weeks — was a key factor in convincing the U.S. and other international actors to intervene in Haiti’s elections and force the electoral authority to change the results of the first round, so as to ensure that Martelly remained on the ballot.

According to numerous firsthand accounts, Mouvement Tét Kale (MTK), a political organization with close ties to Martelly, was active in these street mobilizations. Now documents through Freedom of Information Act requests reveal that the U.S. government later provided nearly $100,000 in support to MTK, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

To read the complete article, click here. The document showing the support to Mouvement Tét Kale from the for-profit contractor Chemonics has also been posted online and is available here

Democrats and Republicans may not see eye to eye on much these days, but one thing a number of them do strongly agree on is the need for greater accountability and transparency around U.S. assistance to Haiti. Last year, Republican representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ed Royce joined senior Democrats from the Senate and the House of Representatives in supporting the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act (APHA), a bill originally introduced by progressive California Democrat Barbara Lee. In a rare display of constructive bipartisanship, the bill was quickly passed by both houses of Congress last July and signed into law by President Obama in early August. 

Now, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are again working to try to ensure that the APHA is properly implemented.  In a July 6 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, 12 House representatives called for the APHA to be implemented “in accordance with both the spirit and the letter of the legislation” and requested that the State Department make a number of significant improvements to the APHA-mandated annual reports on the “status of post-earthquake recovery and development efforts in Haiti.”

The letter cannot be easily ignored by the State Department. It is signed by some of the most senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, including its chair, Ed Royce (R-Calif.); its ranking member, Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.); and other top-ranking members like Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.) and Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.).  It is also signed by nearly every Congressional Black Caucus member who is focused on Haiti, including Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).

The annual report that the congressional members want to see improved is the centerpiece of the Assessing Progress Act. It includes reporting requirements designed to provide policymakers and the public with a clear picture of exactly how U.S. funds are used in Haiti aid programs and what progress is being made toward meeting pre-defined objectives and benchmarks. Having written extensively about the glaring lack of transparency around U.S. aid programs, we were supportive of the passage of the APHA and pleased to see that its reporting requirements took into account a number of our recommendations.

When the State Department’s first report was made public in January of this year, we noted that it provided a lot of useful information for researchers to work with but that often the information provided was incomplete and that there were “instances where State’s reporting may formally comply with the letter of the law, but not with its clear intent of providing lawmakers and the public with a better idea of the concrete results of U.S. Haiti assistance.”

In September 2013 the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court ruled that those born to undocumented foreigners would not be able to maintain citizenship, mainly impacting Dominicans of Haitian descent. The deadline to formalize one’s legal status passed in June, with many thousands left unable to do so because of a lack of documentation. Already nearly 40,000 have “voluntarily” self-deported to Haiti, fearing a looming crackdown in the country many of them have never left. At a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) Wednesday, Haitian foreign minister Lener Renauld accused the Dominicans of leaving Haitians at the border “like dogs.”

But just three months after the court’s ruling, before the world’s attention turned to the island of Hispaniola and the humanitarian crisis on the border, the Dominican Republic hired a D.C.-based lobbying firm to assist with “consolidating and strengthening the image of the Dominican State in the eyes of the [sic] international public opinion,” according to documents filed as part of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

The documents show that the Dominican Republic paid the lobbying firm Steptoe & Johnson over $820,000 between January and August of 2014. The relationship appears to be ongoing however, and it is likely that those costs have only increased with the spotlight now firmly on the Dominican Republic and the firm bringing in hourly rates of around $1,000.

DR Lobby 1

Image: Talking points distributed by Steptoe & Johnson to congressional and executive offices

Lobbyists for Steptoe & Johnson distributed copies of talking points (image above) to congressional and executive offices, describing the migration policy as “modern and transparent” and as a means of protecting the “fundamental rights” of everyone living in the Dominican Republic. Between January and May 2014, the lobbyists met with the offices of at least 24 members of congress, including key players on the foreign affairs committee. In addition to interactions with congress, the contract between the Dominican Republic and Steptoe & Johnson describes a number of other actions, including placement of “interviews, features, opinion pieces in U.S. mainstream media.”

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti. 

On Sunday, July 5, an employee of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), Wikenson Bazile, was shot and killed in the busy Delmas 32 neighborhood. Bazile worked in the office of Jaccéus Joseph, the representative of human rights groups to the CEP. The spokesperson for the CEP, Frantz Bernadin, told Alterpresse on July 6, “We have no interpretation of what happened, we leave the judiciary and the police to do their job and we wait for the results of the investigation [in order] to have more information.”

The electoral advisor, Joseph, however was quick to point out that it was likely an assassination attempt. Joseph explained that there was no indication that Bazile had been robbed, and also pointed to threats he has received. “Taking into account the threats which I am the object of and assassination attempts during my presence in the CEP, I do not take this action lightly,” Joseph told the Nouvelliste, while adding that he would leave it to the police to do its job. Jaccéus Joseph stated that he believed the threats were a result of the neutrality shown by the electoral council.

In a radio interview last week, another CEP member, Nehemy Joseph, alleged that a group of disqualified candidates paid $5,000 USD to “a few assassins whose mission was to kill [CEP member] Jaccéus Joseph, myself and other councilors.” The allegation was quickly denied by Jonas Coffy, a representative of the group, who alleged that Nehemy Joseph had solicited bribes from excluded candidates for their reinstatement.

In May, Professor Emmanual Gouthier, Vice Director at the Ministry of the Interior was shot and killed. Gouthier was tasked with investigating potential candidates. There has been no further information released on the status of the investigation.

Today, the U.N. Special Representative to the Secretary General and head of the U.N. troop contingent in Haiti, Sandra Honoré, condemned the killing of Bazile and called on the police to conduct a prompt investigation into the circumstances. Honoré reiterated a call for all Haitians to reject violence, especially during the electoral period. 

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti. 

The Organization of American States (OAS) signed an accord with the Haitian government to send international observers to monitor elections in 2015. In 2010, the OAS election observation mission was considered highly controversial due to its role in certifying the presidential elections. Haitian Foreign Minister Lener Renauld believes this accord “reaffirms the determination of President Martelly . . . to support the electoral calendar,” and indicates the commitment of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to administer elections on schedule. Nevertheless, there has been considerable speculation and doubt over whether elections will be administered on time.

Presidential candidates Jacky Lumarque and Francois Levelt were disqualified by the CEP over the weekend. Lumarque, running under the VERITE party of former President René Préval, was disqualified for failing to have a décharge. Levelt, running under the Party for the Haitian Diaspora for Haiti, was disqualified after prior felony convictions came to light. Earlier in the week, a coalition of 17 political parties sent an open letter to the CEP urging for Lumarque’s disqualification due to his failure to secure a décharge, and calling on the CEP not to engage in double standards. Although CEP President Pierre Louis Opont previously stated that the presidential candidate list was final, he later said the CEP would continue to review the eligibility of presidential candidates.

The CEP put out an informational video on enhancing women’s political participation in the upcoming local elections. The one-minute video, currently broadcast on local television and radio, calls on political parties to include more female candidates and party representatives. The Haitian constitution and Electoral decree both mandate a 30% quota for women in public office, though the current rate of female representation is around 5%.

Former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe criticized the CEP for the unjustified exclusion of political candidates. On Wednesday, June 17, Lamothe issued a strongly worded statement alleging that the electoral process has been “forever tainted” by the CEP’s arbitrary exclusion of candidates. Although Lamothe was disqualified for the same reason as many other candidates, he has nevertheless called on the international community to “understand the kind of elections that will transpire in Haiti if nothing is done to restore my candidacy. It has allowed and even seemingly encouraged this process to unfold; it now should also play a role in redirecting the course before once again Haiti faces major political turmoil.”

In February, USAID suspended Thor Construction, one of two contractors responsible for designing and building 750 houses in Haiti’s north, in Caracol. In March, the second contractor, CEEPCO, was also suspended. As previous HRRW reporting revealed, the houses were found to be of poor quality, with numerous structural deficiencies including the use of substandard concrete. USAID is currently investigating and putting together a potential legal case against the contractors; however, they continue to downplay the problems and their own role in them.

HRRW has obtained an internal assessment of the Caracol-EKAM housing development, performed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers last year. The report directly contradicts USAID’s public comments on the housing development.

On its website, USAID has a “fact sheet” on the project, explaining: “To address natural disaster concerns, the 750 houses are designed to International Building Code earthquake and hurricane safety standards, and constructed with reinforced concrete masonry.” The webpage says it was updated in February 2015, nearly a year after USAID first began investigating. There is no mention of any problems with the houses in the “fact sheet.”

Turning to the Army Corp of Engineers report, it makes clear that from the very beginning, International Building Codes were ignored. The report “found no evidence that a formal internal or external review” of the housing design was conducted and further, that “the project was designed with inconsistent application of code and latest design criteria,” despite the contract mandating compliance with the International Building Code. The lack of any oversight provided at this crucial early stage is a clear indictment of USAID’s own role in the project’s failure.

USACE Summary Caracol EKAM
Summary of Findings from US Army Corp of Engineers Technical Assessment

USAID also maintains that the houses are built with “reinforced concrete masonry” and are built to hurricane and earthquake safety standards. Not so fast, says the Army Corp of Engineers: “The project was constructed with significant variances from the contract plans and specifications. These variances could result in major damage from a hurricane or seismic event and excessive maintenance requirements if left uncorrected.”

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti. 

On Friday, the CEP published the final list of approved presidential candidates for the upcoming election scheduled to take place October 25, 2015. Of an initial 70 candidates, the CEP accepted 58. Among those excluded from the race was former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe as well as former government ministers Thierry Mayard Paul and Josefina Gauthier. Among the 12 excluded candidates, 9 were excluded for lacking the proper discharge certificate. Radio Kiskeya provides a brief biographical description of each of the 58 candidates, while Le Nouvelliste provides a description of what they describe as the 12 leading candidates. Both Le National and Le Nouvelliste discuss the potential for political alliances in the run-up to elections. Le National points out that the “Lavalas movement is well represented” by a number of candidates but risks splitting the vote if they do not reach some sort of alliance. 

The “Core Group” released a statement on Friday welcoming the CEP’s publication of the list of presidential candidates. The statement reads in part: “The publication of the list of presidential candidates constitutes an important step in the implementation of the electoral process. The ‘Core Group’ reiterates its full support to the work of the Council and the ongoing organization of elections. The Group invites all stakeholders to continue to participate constructively in the 2015 electoral process. The ‘Core Group’ salutes the efforts of the Government of the Republic towards the continued strengthening of democracy in Haiti. The members of the Core Group emphasize the importance of building on the current momentum and supporting the CEP, the Government and people of Haiti, including the political parties, in the conduct of fair, transparent and inclusive elections in a climate of serenity.”

Many political parties are still questioning the electoral schedule provided by the CEP, reports Alterpresse. Legislative elections scheduled for August 9, despite assurances from the CEP that they will be held on time, are being questioned by leaders of Fusion, OPL and MOPOD among others. Secretary General of Fusion, Ramon Pradel, told Alterpresse that, “we do not believe that the elections will take place on that date," due to logistical questions that have yet to be worked out. Fusion and OPL have 97 and 93 candidates in the legislative race respectively, while MOPOD has 23. A key issue has been a significant funding shortfall in the electoral budget, but U.S. Haiti Special Coordinator Tom Adams stated over the weekend that the U.S. would increase their financial contribution. Adams has previously publically expressed his opinion that the August election should be delayed and incorporated into the October 25 presidential election as a way to save money, a position which is supported by many political parties in Haiti.  

Caracol Flood houses
Image of flooding at Caracol EKAM Shelter site from internal USAID document. Caption reads: “Site flooding due to improper drainage”

Despite USAID allocating some $1.7 billion for the reconstruction effort in Haiti, its projects have exhibited varying levels of success and face serious sustainability challenges, according to a report [PDF] released yesterday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO analyzed 23 USAID projects across all eight sectors of USAID’s portfolio. Each program was allocated at least $10 million. The GAO report found that because of delays, USAID has extended its Haiti strategy for three more years, through 2018.

According to USAID officials, the factors leading to cost overruns, delays and poor results were a “lack of staff with relevant expertise, unrealistic initial plans, challenges encountered with some implementing partners, and delayed or revised decisions from the Haitian government.”

The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles reports:

The release of the report by the GAO, which works for Congress, came a day ahead of a visit to Haiti by U.S. congressional staffers from the House Foreign Affairs committee. Led by Eddy Acevedo, senior policy advisor to U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the delegation plans to visit some of the projects, including empty housing plots, where work stalled because the agencies that were supposed to build the homes on behalf of USAID pulled out.

The GAO report found that five of USAID’s six major infrastructure projects had to reduce planned outcomes and “encountered delays in 4 of these activities.” Non-infrastructure activities also faced delays and reduced outcomes, but to a lesser extent. The various delays have led USAID to extend its time frame for Haiti work by three years, through 2018.

Though results varied across sectors, the GAO report revealed that in the 17 non-infrastructure projects analyzed, not a single one met or exceeded all of its performance indicators. In the case of infrastructure projects, the results were even worse. The auditors report that during a site visit to the Caracol EKAM shelter program:

we observed unresolved concerns such as blocked drainage pipes and ditches that led to flooding in the settlement after heavy rains, and blocked and crushed sewage pipes. We also observed open water catchment tanks adjacent to some houses that had become breeding areas for mosquitoes.

The report notes that the original plan was to prepare 15,000 lots and build 4,000 homes, but that “The mission had reduced the planned number of plots to 2,013, or by 87 percent, with 906 of the houses to be built by USAID, a reduction of 77 percent.” Meanwhile, costs per house increased, for an original plan of $8,000, on average, to over $24,000 by September 2014. Unmentioned in the GAO report, however, is that the two contractors responsible for the program have been suspended from receiving further government contracts and are under a legal investigation for using shoddy materials and disregarding contractual obligations.

But above and beyond the missed timelines and reduced outcomes, perhaps the most damning part of the GAO report focuses on USAID policies around the sustainability of its projects.

(Updated June 4, 2015, 11:34 a.m. to include references to NPR's report.)

ProPublica’s Justin Elliott and NPR’s Laura Sullivan have published damning new exposés on the American Red Cross’ work in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake (ProPublica's here; NPR's here). The reporting not only validates much of the criticism previously leveled at the ARC for its questionable priorities, slow pace of spending and short list of accomplishments; it offers some stunning new revelations – some of them coming from internal ARC communications.

One of the clearest failures is embodied in the ProPublica article’s headline. While the ARC itself says that it spent 35 percent of its funds raised for Haiti on shelter, and that it “has helped 132,000 Haitians to live in safer conditions—ranging from providing temporary homes and rental subsidies to repaired and new homes,” it has, ProPublica and NPR report, delivered only six new, permanent houses.

The article begins:

In late 2011, the Red Cross launched a multimillion-dollar project to transform the desperately poor [neighborhood of Campeche], which was hit hard by the earthquake that struck Haiti the year before. The main focus of the program — called LAMIKA, an acronym in Creole for “A Better Life in My Neighborhood” — was building hundreds of permanent homes.

Today, not one home has been built. Many residents live in shacks made of rusty sheet metal, without access to drinkable water, electricity or basic sanitation. When it rains, their homes flood and residents bail out mud and water.

The Red Cross received an outpouring of donations after the quake, nearly half a billion dollars.

The group has publicly celebrated its work. But in fact, the Red Cross has repeatedly failed on the ground in Haiti. Confidential memos, emails from worried top officers, and accounts of a dozen frustrated and disappointed insiders show the charity has broken promises, squandered donations, and made dubious claims of success.

The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people. But the actual number of permanent homes the group has built in all of Haiti: six.

After the earthquake, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern unveiled ambitious plans to “develop brand-new communities.” None has ever been built.

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